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House and Senate OK district maps
Senate meets Monday to discuss
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A map of state House districts drawn by Republicans was passed Thursday with an overwhelming majority and the support of all of the representatives from Hall County. A map of proposed Senate districts was also passed Thursday.

The House voted 108-64 in favor of its map, and the Senate approved its map by a vote of 35-18. It is the first time in Georgia that Republicans have controlled the redistricting process from start to finish.

Each chamber will begin to debate the other's district proposals early next week.

Core members of Hall County's delegation have said they sought changes to the House districts drawn for Hall County.

The legislators' concern is the addition of House members to the county, most of whom would have constituent bases that are largely from surrounding areas.

The proposed districts increase the local delegation to nine members — seven House members and two senators.

Only four of those lawmakers would be entirely based in Hall County.

The map passed by the Senate Thursday makes residents of an area east of Gillsville Highway and Harmony Church Road part of a larger Senate district currently held by Cornelia Republican Jim Butterworth.

Those residents would also become part of a House district that includes Stephens and Banks counties, according to the map House members approved
The representative for that district lives two counties to the east of Hall: Toccoa Republican Michael Harden.

The map also divides residents of South Hall among a district held by Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, and two other districts largely based in Gwinnett County.

A number of voters in West Hall would fall into Rep. Amos Amerson's district, which is largely based in Lumpkin and Dawson counties, according to the proposal passed by the House.

Despite their votes in favor of the map, state Reps. Carl Rogers and Doug Collins said they are still hopeful the House districts will look different — at least in Hall County — when they come out of the Senate.

"The negotiations are still going on," Rogers said. "It's not final, final, final yet."

Collins, a floor leader in the House, said his "yea" vote was "to move the conversation along."
"We're moving the debate along, and we're still hopeful that resolution can be had," Collins said.

"We do not feel at this point that conversation is completely closed."

Presumably, any changes the members of the delegation want for the maps would be made in the state Senate.

But those changes, if made in the Senate after overwhelming House approval, would break redistricting tradition in the Georgia General Assembly.

The Senate's reapportionment and redistricting committee will meet at 10 a.m. Monday to discuss the House proposal.

Every 10 years, as the majority party in each chamber redraws its boundaries according to new population statistics, a map passed out of the House usually gets the support of the Senate with no changes, political observers say.

This round of redistricting is different than years past, however, as the unhappy parties represent the home county of both the governor and the lieutenant governor.

It is uncertain whether Gov. Nathan Deal or Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will intervene on the district boundaries or if they already have.

A spokesman for Deal only hinted that the governor was not happy with the House map. A spokesman for Cagle did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

"The governor has expressed concern over the current House map that passed Thursday, as it relates to Hall County," said Deal spokesman Brian Robinson. "We will continue to work through the process to address those concerns."

All the members of the core delegation have kept the details of their negotiations close to the vest.

Neither Collins nor Rogers nor Mills argued for or against the proposed House map on the floor of the House Thursday.

Mills said he spoke about the map during an earlier meeting of the Republican caucus, however, and each hints at some behind the scenes power play and negotiations with legislative leadership.

Still, Rogers would only say the map has a 50 percent chance of returning from the Senate with Hall County changes to the House districts.

"I have expressed our concerns," Rogers said. "...What you do is say ‘I'll vote for it as long as there's some tweaking done.' You hope for the tweaking and hope the man on the other side lives to their promise. So we'll see what happens."

Associated Press contributed to this report

 

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